What is Peyronie’s disease?
Reviewed by our clinical team
Penises comes in all shapes and sizes, and tend to change in appearance when they’re erect. It’s fairly normal for an erect penis to have a slight curve to it, but this doesn’t usually cause any problems.
In more severe cases, however, a bend in the penis can cause pain and difficulty having sex – this is known as Peyronie’s disease. If you think you might have this condition, it’s important to see your GP.
In this article we’ll look at the symptoms of Peyronie’s, potential causes and ways it might be treated.
Symptoms of Peyronie’s
Peyronie’s disease symptoms are quite distinctive and easy to spot. They include:
A thickened area or hard lump in the penis
This could be on the top or underside of the penis. It’s often caused by inflammation which then becomes a hardened scar, causing a lump (plaque).
A curve in the penis
This usually happens when the penis is erect.
Most men who experience Peyronie’s will only have pain when the penis is erect, pain when it’s not erect is very rare.
An abnormal shaped penis
Because of the lump/plaque on the penis, it might appear misshapen or like an hourglass.
A loss of length or girth
Due to the curve, the penis may appear shorter or less thick.
For most men, the symptoms are mild, but some men get painful erections. Sometimes the bend can make intercourse difficult. Some men also experience erection problems - this can be due to reduced blood flow, emotional distress or pain, or a combination of all three.
Causes of Peyronie’s
The distinctive bend in the penis is usually caused by a hard lump known as a plaque building up in one area.
Unfortunately, we don’t understand what causes this. It’s thought that there might be a genetic component (i.e. it runs in families) and that men with conditions like type 1 diabetes and high blood pressure have a higher risk.
An injury, for example a low tackle during rugby or vigorous sex can also cause Peyronie's in some men.
Can you prevent Peyronie’s disease?
As we’re not really sure what causes Peyronie’s, it’s hard to say what you can do to prevent it.
Is Peyronie’s disease permanent?
Unfortunately Peyronie's is a permanent condition, and even with treatment you will not get the penis back you once had. However, there is treatment available to help with the painful stage (if you get it). If the curve or changed shape does not interfere with having sex, there is no need do anything. It would simply be a case of getting used to the new shape. If penetration becomes impossible, surgery or having injections might be an option.
Treatment for Peyronie’s
For men who have Peyronie’s disease, treatment is usually only needed if it's causing any pain or problems having sex.
If you don’t have pain and if you’re able to have sex normally, you don’t need any treatment. However, if the condition is affecting your sex life and causing a lot of discomfort you could consider some of these treatment options:
Erectile dysfunction tablets
Peyronie’s disease can cause erectile dysfunction (ED), so if this is your main issue, it might be a good idea to try Viagra, or another ED tablet like Cialis or Levitra. Taking ED tablets won’t cure Peyronie’s, but they can help you to have sex again.
ED tablets are available for free if you get them on prescription from your GP. As an alternative, you can request ED tablets through Online Doctor or pop into your nearest LloydsPharmacy to buy Viagra Connect over the counter.
Vacuum or traction devices
A vacuum pump can help to induce an erection if you’re experiencing ED as a result of Peyronie’s. Alternatively, traction devices can be used to straighten your penis and improve length.
Collagenase is a medication that breaks down collagen. In men with more severe Peyronie’s, collagenase injections can help to reduce the thickened area or lump that is causing the curvature. However, these injections aren’t available on the NHS.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT)
ESWT is a procedure that applies soundwaves to the hardened area of the penis to break it down – it’s similar to the treatment used to break down kidney stones. Although ESWT is considered safe, it’s not clear how effective it is at treating Peyronie’s
For men with severe Peyronie’s, surgery may be the best course of action. During surgery, your doctor may remove the hardened area, or remove a healthy area of the penis to help “cancel out” the bend. Another option is to implant a device to help straighten the penis.
What happens if Peyronie’s disease is left untreated?
For most men Peyronies' stabilises after about 6 months and doesn't get any worse. About 20% will get a flare-up at some point leading to more pain and a more pronounced bend. About 10% of men find that things improve without any treatment at all.
In general, if you notice any kind of significant change to your penis or your testicles it’s a good idea to visit your GP. A lump on the penis may be a sign of Peyronie’s, or another condition that requires medical attention – learn more here.
Treatment for erectile dysfunction
If you’re struggling to get erections, it’s always worth speaking to your GP to check for any underlying conditions such as Peyronie's, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or an issue with your hormones.